Exclusive: Frehley's Fine Without Kiss

With Kiss nearing the launch of its co-headlining trek with Aerosmith, the band's former guitarist, Ace Frehley, wants to make certain that fans know he won't be a part of the tour, and that he's hard

With Kiss nearing the launch of its co-headlining trek with Aerosmith, the band's former guitarist, Ace Frehley, wants to make certain that fans know he won't be a part of the tour, and that he's hard at work on his next solo record.

In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Frehley says he will not be hitting the road for two reasons: In 2001, when Kiss finished its Farewell tour, he says he was told by bandmates Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley that the jaunt would be the band's last. And, as a result, at the end of that tour, he began planning and working on his seventh, as-yet-untitled, solo record, which he didn't want to delay for another nostalgia-focused tour with Kiss.

"When I finished the last tour, they told me that was it," Frehley says. "So I'm not gonna sit around and twiddle my thumbs. I started preparing, before the tour was even over, and built a recording studio on my property and started writing. I miss my fans, and I apologize to them if they're let down that I'm not touring with Kiss. But I did what any normal person would have done. When I was out of a job, I made other plans, and once that's set in motion, I can't drop everything once Gene Simmons calls and says, 'We may be touring this time.'

"I wasn't available emotionally or mentally, and, economically, I didn't need the tour." Frehley says. "I had gotten to the state of mind of not repeating old things and going on. I'm on a journey.

"[Writing, recording and performing new songs] would have been more appealing to me, simply because I think it would have been more appealing to the fans. Having new product out would have been more exciting to perform live than the same old songs I've been playing for 25, 30 years. It's a whole different ball of wax. But the situation, as it applies now, the term beating a dead horse kind of applies to it a little."

Although it may be beside the point, Frehley notes that he also didn't like the idea of being an opening act. Although Kiss and Aerosmith are being billed as co-headliners, the latter will close each night on the tour, on which a revolving stage will be used to speed up set changes. "Kiss is one of the biggest rock groups in the world. I mean, I don't understand the reasoning behind Gene's train of thought as being an opening act for a group that used to open for us."

In an interview appearing in the Aug. 9 issue of Billboard, Stanley downplays the notion Kiss is opening for Aerosmith. Regardless of when we go on, our job remains the same," he says. "We can only be who we are, and the fact that somebody has to go on before somebody else is a moot point to us."

Frehley wants to put to rest any rumors that his absence is a result of any battles with alcohol or drugs. Over the years, alcohol and substance abuse have long been blamed as contributing factors to Frehley and drummer Peter Criss' departure from the group in the early 1980s.

"Physically and mentally, I've never been fitter. Just to set the record straight, I haven't had a drink or a drug in months," says Frehley, now in his early 50s. "I've really gotten into a health kick, because I'm not getting any younger. I can't do the stuff I used to do in the '70s. That's insane. I fooled around with that stuff for years, but at this point in my life, it's not the right road for me to take."

When the Kiss/Aerosmith tour kicks off tomorrow (Aug. 2) in Hartford, Conn., Stanley, Simmons and Criss will be joined by longtime Kiss staffer and one-time tour manager Tommy Thayer, ex-guitarist in '80s-metal act Black 'N Blue. "Tommy and I are very good friends," Frehley says of his replacement, who will be -- and has been for roughly a year now -- performing in Frehley's signature "Spaceman" makeup and costume. "If I had to pick anybody to fill my shoes, because for some reason or another I couldn't be there, I would pick Tommy."

Yet Frehley says he's somewhat bothered by the fact that the advertising for the tour makes no mention of his absence. "They've basically been saying the real band is going to play, and it kind of gives the impression of deception," he says. "But everybody has their perception." Thayer is given full credit on the new "Alive IV" disc, a recording of the band's February show with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, which was his second gig with the band.

The guitarist has been writing and recording material for his next solo album for the better part of two years at home in Upper Westchester County, N.Y., where he's resided for more than a decade. It's there, on his seven-and-a-half-acre estate that he recently completed work on Ace in the Hole 2, his home multimedia studio and rehearsal space. Before he left Kiss for the first time in 1982, Frehley and the band recorded that year's "Music From the Elder" album at the original Ace in the Hole studio at the guitarist's former home in Wilton, Conn.

He's in discussions with labels to issue the solo set next year. Of his new material, Frehley says, "It's really nothing different from what I've always done in the past; it's just newer and fresher. And hopefully it's gonna sound a little updated. Obviously, as music progresses, I take note of what's happening in the music world. I'll take into consideration what's going on now, and act accordingly. I don't want to be a dinosaur -- everybody has to change. But, as far as the guts of my music, that will never change: When you knock down the songs to the bare minimum, it's rock'n'roll."

In its 30 years, Kiss has undergone numerous lineup changes, beginning when Criss left the band in 1980 and was replaced by late drummer Eric Carr. Thayer is the fourth guitarist to take Frehley's place alongside Stanley at stage left. Frehley and Criss reunited with Stanley and Simmons at Kiss' 1995 taping of "MTV Unplugged." Roughly a year later, the original band reformed and returned to stadiums and arenas in full makeup and costumes.

In a separate interview, Stanley told Billboard recently that in the '70s, when it became clear that "the original band would not make it to the end, [he and Simmons] had a life-changing moment when we decided that should a member want to leave ... that's not enough reason for the band to fold.

"Once Ace made it clear [recently] that he wanted to pursue a solo career, for whatever reasons," he added, "I was clear that the priority was for the band to continue."